Using wealth to build monuments to oneself isn’t easy. A person has to work to spend with panache, because bragging rights are becoming competitive. Recently, a Saudi Prince spent $450.3 million at Christie’s for Leonardo da Vinci’s, Salvador Mundi. (Click) In this case, says writer James Atlas, the buyer did manage to take conspicuous consumption to a new height. (“The Optics of Excess,” by James Atlas, Town&Country, March 2018, pg. 163.)
If one doubts the gap between rich and poor is widening, we have only to look at how one-percenters spend their money. Paul Allen, former titan at Microsoft, owns a $200 million yacht that is supplied with a submarine, a screening room and two helicopters. (Click) Our president lives in Versailles-like splendor at Mara Lago. There, he escapes what he deems to be the squalor of the White House and sends his property tax bill to the public. (Click)
As Atlas points out, the super wealthy are approaching a profligacy akin to Caligula’s Roman Empire. (Ibid. pg. 163.) What they don’t spend for personal aggrandizement, they stash away in tax havens. Contrary to what we ordinary citizens are told, the money doesn’t “trickle down.”(Click)
There’s nothing illegal about this bonfire of egos. Nor will it ever be, as long as the rich splash money on political campaigns, making themselves defacto landlords of the Congress. (Click)
When the super wealthy squander money for more than they need and for prices beyond the object’s intrinsic value, they might want to consider other options. Instead of owning multiple palaces, while veterans sleep on the streets; instead of investing millions in antique cars, while the unemployed walk to find jobs, let them consider this: for $45 a month, they can sponsor a child in Afghanistan. In fact, for the price of one Salvador Mundi, they can sponsor almost every child in that country. (Ibid pg. 163). In my opinion, the mega rich should stop thinking small and begin thinking large.